The Threshold

I’m having a liminal moment.

Remember this moment when Indiana Jones had to 'step out'?
Remember this moment- Indiana Jones stepped out!

Liminality is linked to the idea of thresholds (the Latin word is related to doorsteps), it’s about passing through into somewhere, something new. It’s the place where transformation happens.

The Scottish anthropologist Victor Turner had a lot to say about these ‘betixt and between’ times. Times when you wobble between being one thing and another. He looked at those ‘Rites of Passage’ whereby tribes would send boys off into the jungle to eat horrible food or fight a bear or something and come back a man. During the trial you were in the liminal phase. Not one thing ( a boy) – yet not the other yet (a man). I have such a rite to go through tomorrow – don’t worry, I don’t have to be circumcised or do anything  life threatening  – in fact I’m looking forward to it a great deal.

I had to fill in a form earlier – it asked about occupation.

Well…. I’m ordained in the C of E. But tomorrow I get commissioned to lead a non CofE church. I was ‘Rector,’ – NEVER liked that title- tomorrow I get welcomed as the new Senior Pastor of Ivy Cottage. Eventually I think the Bishop of Manchester will sort me out with a licence so I stay in theAnglican fold (whatever that means these days) – but I got to make my own business card and I put on there, “Team leader.” I prefer that (if I have to have a title at all).My son Joel has a laugh about me being a Team Leader. He says none of his friends at his new school understand that – and they don’t believe him when he says I’m a Vicar – to make it easier for them to get it.

I suppose an anthropologist would have to class this as ‘temporary liminality’ technically – ‘ a stage I’m going through..’ but then as a Christian we’re called to engae with the strangeness of being ‘in the world not of it’ – aliens and strangers – on a permanent basis.

Fr. Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest who’s written brilliantly on this idea of liminality – concentrate hard as you read on…

Nothing new happens as long as we are inside our self-constructed comfort zone. Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual. Much of the work of the God of the Bible is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential.

He says liminality is

“… a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are finally out of the way. It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun. Think of Israel in the desert, Joseph in the pit, Jonah in the belly, the three Marys tending the tomb.”

Ever been there? He continues –

IF YOU ARE NOT trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait—you will run…. Few of us know how to stay on the threshold. You just feel stupid there—and we are all trying to say something profound these days.”

He’s certainly right about that last sentence – why else do we bloggers bother?

One thought on “The Threshold

  1. Hi Anthony

    how are you doing? So we’re looking at Lifeshapes – well I’ll read with interest. A friend of mine Rob talked about nothing else when I travelled to Africa with him a couple of years ago.

    Thanks for the link in your site and your encouragement.

    From a very hot Zambia – take care. Jon

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